LEE NOVAK put the seal on a Town fightback packed with all the galvanising determination which bodes well for the rest of the season.
Three successive League I draws had cranked up expectation levels and, when Lee Clark’s side went into half time trailing 2-1, the tension was tangible.
But his battling side played with pride, passion and purpose – roared on magnificently by a home contingent who appreciated the desire – and having forced themselves level with Jordan Rhodes’ cracking second goal of the match, went on to clinch a significant victory.
Not only did it extend the club-record run of unbeaten League matches to 29, it put them just a point behind the top six and set the platform for a Carling Cup challenge at Cardiff tomorrow night ahead of another home game against Wycombe at the weekend.
While half-time substitute Danny Ward was the livewire catalyst for the excellent turnaround, every member of Clark’s team played their part as Town had to be both robust and inventive to hold sway against an impressive Colchester outfit.
Big, pacy and comfortable on the ball, John Ward’s side won’t make it easy for anyone this season and Town had to draw on all their reserves of resolve and ability to take the points.
They were not found wanting.
With Rhodes and Novak always looking to have the pace and ingenuity to put Colchester under pressure, all Town needed was to get behind the back four and supply the right ball – just as the rampaging Jack Hunt did in the third minute to tee up Rhodes’ first of the season in great style.
With Ward running at the bewildered Brian Wilson and substitute Andrew Bond in the second period (he replaced the out of sorts Gary Roberts), Town had that menace and the rest of his colleagues were only too happy to join in the fun.
Ward headed just wide within a minute of the re-start, then Novak’s slicing run ended with Kemal Izzet clearing from near the line as chaos ensued in the Colchester defence.
With the fans backing Town to the hilt, there was no relenting in the pressure and even skipper Peter Clarke – who in the seventh minute had an effort cleared off the Colchester line by Magnus Okuonghae – burst into the box to force Mark Cousins into a desperate save at the feet of Novak.
Town now had a grip on the game and they blew open the safe door to victory with two splendid goals in five minutes.
Rhodes, having shown his prowess from close range with the opener before being denied with an incredible save from a close range header, turned inside from the left flank on 59 minutes and put Town level with a blistering drive.
Colchester responded, just as they had done in the first half through Kayode Odejayi (4) and Michail Antonio (26), by creating a great chance for substitute Ben Coker, but Ian Bennett produced the sort of one-handed diving save we have become used to.
It was a vital moment, because instead of going behind again, Town found themselves in front barely three minutes later as Donal McDermott and Rhodes combined to provide Novak with a chance on the right of the box. With Cousins advancing from his line, the in-form Geordie frontman made no mistake with his lob for a fourth goal in as many appearances.
Town created chances after that with Cousins punching clear under pressure from Rhodes, who then curled a free kick just over the bar, but Colchester remained a threat.
Clark was unhappy with the space afforded the visitors in the first half, when a simple Anthony Wordsworth pass put Odejayi through the middle for his goal (he also had one ruled out for offside) and Antonio nipped in at the back post to meet a cross from the unmarked John Joe O’Toole.
There were late scares, too, as great delivery from the left put Town’s defence under the cosh – Clark sent on Antony Kay for extra height – but Bond headed straight at Bennett when a corner was re-loaded and Hunt produced a tremendous sliding block to deny Ian Henderson a great shooting chance.
So, there are still defensive issues to work on throughout the side as the working progress which is this new Town team get to know each other.
But they showed bags of character and ability in a storming second-half show and the standing ovation – missed by the departed scouts from Cardiff and Wycombe – was richly deserved.